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Remembering nation’s only anti-Japanese uprising
Published on: Monday, January 22, 2024
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Remembering nation’s only anti-Japanese uprising
Honouring those who fought against the Japanese occupation during the World War II.
Kota Kinabalu: Some 1,000 people descended on the Petagas War Memorial, Sunday, to honour the some 200 locals who staged Malaysia’s only armed uprising by ordinary civilians against the Japanese in then British North Borneo during World War II and were executed for their bravery. 

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan represented Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor in the traditional wreath-laying ceremony witnessed by 14 contingents representing enforcement agencies, government bodies and volunteer organisations. 

The memorial stands on the very spot where the fighters known as the Kinabalu Guerillas led by Sarawakian Albert Kwok (pic) were executed in January 1944.

The incident came to be known as the Double 10th as it was launched on October 9, 1943 – the eve of the Chinese festival of the Double Tenth.

The day that the Chinese celebrate the triumph of the Chinese revolution of Dr Sun Yet-sen 

Kwok and five ringleaders were beheaded while 170 others were machine-gunned before dawn that day in 1944 by the Japanese after being transported there by rail from the Batu Tiga camp where Sabah College (Maktab Sabah) now stands.

More than 130 other sympathisers were dispatched to Labuan where only 11 survived.

Their remains were also brought back to be buried at Petagas. Kwok’s guerillas managed to kill some 70 Japanese and took control of Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) for a day before Japanese reinforcements were rushed from Sarawak to put down the revolt.

The Japanese mercilessly pursued the guerrillas up to Kota Belud and outlying islands.

Many were killed and those who were captured were brought to Batu Tiga camp where nearly 100 were tortured to death.

It was the remaining prisoners who were taken to Petagas for their fate.

Wreaths at the Petagas War Memorial yesterday.

A first hand account of what happened when the revolt happened was recorded by the late TA Neelakanthan, a surveyor who was hired by the colonial administration from India in the 1930s as he worked at the Lands Office where the Standard Chartered bank is and lived in one of the stilt houses nearby. 

His diary which was presented to Daily Express by his family in India where he returned during independence in 1963, was published by the paper in March last year in a series lasting 20 weeks.

Neelakanthan spoke of many Chinese, including those who had nothing to do with the revolt also losing their lives, as every Chinese became a suspect.

More so if they ran in fright from a Japanese soldier.

As well as a large number of Bajaus and Suluks who resided in the islands along the west coast up to Mantanani for supporting Kwok’s resistance.  

Neelakanthan’s eldest son, Viswana-than, a retired Colonel in the Indian army has since given special permission to the Daily Express to put up a digital version of the diary so that people everywhere, particularly young Sabahans – and also the younger generation of Japanese – will know what happened during the war in Sabah. 

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